The Royal Irish Constabulary


Recently I was asked about the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Constabulary Act of 1822 provided for Ireland's first country-wide police force, which was known as the County Constabulary. Each barony (327) was to have 16 sub-constables, appointed by the magistrates and be under the supervision of an inspector-general for each Province. They were to be under 40 years of age, be able to read and write and be of good character.


A restructuring took place in 1836 at which time the County Constabularies of the four Provinces were brought back together as the Irish Constabulary. Their numbers peaked at a little over 12,000 in 1850 and then settled to about 10,000. The Irish Constabulary became "Royal" in 1867 when recognized by Queen Victoria for suppressing the rising of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The Royal Irish Constabulary was disbanded in 1922 to be replaced in the Republic by the Garda Síochána and in Northern Ireland by the Royal Ulster Constabulary.


Both Ancestry and Findmypast have databases relating to records of the Irish Constabulary 1816-1922 (1816-1822 represents the records of the Peace Preservation Force, a predecessor to the RIC). The records contain names of both Catholic and Protestant Irish and provide the name, age at enlistment, birthplace, comments which may include information on emigration or marriage, year of enlistment, and localities where stationed. The original records are held at the National Archives of the UK at Kew with copies at PRONI and the National Archives of Ireland. The index at Ancestry gives you the information needed to identify a person in the Family History Library microfilms.

The database from Findmypast includes both the index and images. Here you see that John Moughty, originally of Longford, joined 16 Oct 1865 and was assigned to Galway; he resigned the 12 May 1869 to emigrate to America.

Findmypast also has the Pension Files for the RIC. Below, Thomas J Walker received his pension beginning 20 May 1922 (when the RIC was disestablished in Northern Ireland). He then served for about five years in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

New recruits to the Constabulary had to be single, between 19 and 27 years old, in good health and at least 5' 9" tall (I have a few that were 5' 8 3/4"). They were not allowed to serve in the county in which they (or their wife) resided, could only marry after seven years of service, and then, only with the permission of their superiors.


If you are looking for records of your Irish Constabulary ancestor another resource I can recommend is Jim Herlihy's The Royal Irish Constabulary: A Short History and Genealogical Guide : With a Select List of Medal Awards and Casualties, published by Four Courts Press in 1997. I had the opportunity to meet Jim at the Third Irish Congress in Maynooth (outside of Dublin) in 1997. He has also published a complete alphabetical list of officers as well as a book on the Dublin Metropolitan Police. A few years ago when I was in Dublin doing research for a client, Jim put me in touch with the Garda Museum at Dublin Castle where I viewed the original enlistment books for the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Another recommendation is an article that appeared in The Irish at Home and Abroad, Volume 4, Number 1, 1st Quarter 1997, titled "The Royal Irish Constabulary Service Registers (Home Office 184 Series)" by Dr. Michael J. Hanophy, PhD.


Below are links to various databases and images.


Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!



Royal Irish Constabulary 1814-1922

The Royal Irish Constabulary - Facebook Page

The Royal Irish Constabulary 1816-1921 - Ancestry.com (Index Only)

Royal Irish Constabulary Service Records 1816-1922 - Findmypast (Index and Images)

Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions 1826-1925 - Findmypast (Index and Images)

Royal Irish Constabulary History & Directories - Findmypast (PDF's)

The Royal Irish Constabulary Forum

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